We in the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees of the Middle East Council of Churches meeting in our first biannual Central Committee meeting wish to share with you our grief over what transpired in the last few days on the Gaza border, in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, all Israeli occupied territory. We were shocked about the number of innocent casualties and the hundreds of people injured as they protested nonviolently on the Gaza border with Israel. It pains us that this tragic episode could have been avoided if the Israeli policy makers would have opted for a peace plan with the Palestinians and adopted a vision of peace. Unfortunately, the alternate position in the present Israeli government is insistence on a path that pits Israelis against Palestinians and that negates the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and freedom from a relationship based on occupation and the exercise of brutal force to one that sees an end to occupation and that promotes eventual healing and reconciliation.
The events on the Gaza border, in particular, reminds all of us of the need to work together in order to avoid the repeat of the tragic results:
- We have to sensitize our communities and faith groups on the current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
- We should insist that the present realities of occupation and use of brute force cannot promise a future of peace and eventual healing and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.
- We need to address our elected officials, governments and those influential on the urgency of restarting a genuine and credible peace process that would secure the rights of Palestinians and that would at the same time change the course of ongoing confrontation between the occupying power and the occupied into one that promotes peacemaking and the possibility of exploring ways for a common ground in Palestine and Israel.
- Ending occupation is a must for any negotiated political process; the current siege on the Gaza Strip must end, the inhibitions and restrictions on Palestinians must also be lifted, the ongoing expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank must stop. A people that is under control is not a free people; a people whose land is taken away does not have physical space to set up its own state; a people whose basic rights are trampled cannot stand up tall when negotiating with the occupier.
- The results of the events of recent days have pressed on us in the Department of Service to Palestinian refugees to issue a new alert, followed by an ACT Alliance Appeal in which we want to accomplish, among other things, the following:
- Providing needed medications and medical follow up to the injured.
- Provide medical assessment, and counseling for those affected patients.
- Make sure that the families of those killed as well as the injured and their families would receive psychosocial intervention and professional counseling.
- Helping families affected with lost livelihood opportunities and special needs resulting from the recent events to heal and overcome.
- Provide Job opportunities for a three-month contract at US$350 monthly salary for male and female young people affected by recent developments.
- Aware of the man-induced general poverty in the Gaza Strip, provide affected Families that have lost a member or have an injured member, with US$100 p/family cash payment to cover purchases of basic food necessities and commodities.
- Cooperate together with our partners, ACT Alliance members, other civil society, and faith based organizations to follow up on developments and needs of those affected as well as the larger population that is affected by a continuing situation of conflict and confrontation.
- Undertake advocacy on the need to end occupation and to restart the political process of negotiations on genuine and balanced basis.
- Enhance resilience of youth in Jerusalem through providing capacity building opportunities
- Assist affected Gaza patients and their families who seek medical attention in East Jerusalem hospitals who cannot return to Gaza
We trust in the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees of the Middle East Council of Churches that we will be in constant contact and exchange with all of you on aspects of advocacy and tending to the wounds of those affected in order to optimize intervention for the sake not only of immediate attention to the rising needs of those affected and their families but as important to highlight to our communities, public officials, faith based groups and the general public of the need to advance in the process of peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians.
As we mourn those who fell and wish the injured quick recovery, we are confident that our involvement and our partnerships are essential in order to promote an end to the tragedies that for long have been the experience of our people and restore hope through a just and lasting peace.
Dr. Audeh Quawas, Chairperson
Dr. Bernard Sabella, Executive Secretary
[You can contribute to the ACTAlliance appeal and emergency response through One Great Hour of Sharing (United Church of Christ) and Week of Compassion (Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Advocacy opportunities are available through Global Ministries' Middle East and Europe Israel/Palestine page.]